The Corner

GOP Leaders Should Learn from Their Amnesty Calamity

Congressional Republican leaders have painted themselves into a corner over Emperor Obama’s unconstitutional executive order on amnesty. Now, they are tying themselves into knots as they try to wiggle out of this tight spot.

The fact that they walked into this embarrassing jam in the first place is proof of two recurring problems: First, the GOP’s congressional leaders have no sense of strategy or tactics. Second, they never listen.

Perhaps because they neither sleep nor go to the bathroom, Democrats nearly always trump Republicans as regards broad legislative battle plans and the narrow parliamentary procedures needed to speed or stall bills on Capitol Hill. Even with control of the House and Senate, Republicans remain a third-grade Little League team beside the 27-time World Series Champion Yankees and their coach, Senator Harry Reid (D – Nevada).

Republican politicians’ recurring inability to craft winning strategies or clever tactics around issues and legislation would be less maddening if they listened. Conservative activists, party operatives, and sympathetic commentators constantly offer the GOP free advice on everything from communicating themes to writing bills. Alas, this is as productive as hollering into a cave. At best, one hears an echo that signifies nothing. At worst, one winds up hoarse and frustrated.

Republicans would not be in this intractable tangle over amnesty if they had listened to my advice, and that of others, who urged them not to tether their anti-amnesty language to funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Despite its inefficiencies, most Americans consider this institution vital to U.S. national security. Conservatives in Congress should have attached the anti-amnesty language to the budget for an agency towards which most Americans are indifferent, if not hostile, instead.

In a December 3 article, I quoted my friend Jonathan Rothenberg, a Manhattan money man with staggeringly sharp political instincts.

“The solution seems painfully simple,”Jonathan tells me. “Pass a continuing resolution funding all of the government except for the EPA, and a second CR funding EPA with a prohibition on amnesty. Few Americans will care if EPA is shut for a few weeks, and Democrats can decide which constituency is more pander-worthy.”

How fun to make Democrats choose between the environmentalists who finance their campaigns — such as the Sierra Club and former coal monger Tom Steyer — and illegal aliens, whom they hope eventually to recruit as future Democrats.

Naturally, Republicans did not listen. Instead, they gave Obama all the money he wanted through September 30, which means the GOP cannot wield the power of the purse over Obama until nearly one month after Labor Day. No doubt, Obama will wreak major havoc for the next seven months, and Republicans will be utterly impotent to deny him the funds to do so.

Even more idiotically, the GOP leadership appended the defunding of Obama’s executive order on amnesty to the DHS budget. Republicans, of all people, should have foreseen that the growing ISIS threat and mounting concerns about jihadist attacks on U.S. soil would make this a dreadful time to tamper with the agency that encompasses the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a number of other vital counterterrorism agencies.

The GOP is now vulnerable to Leftist demagogues who will argue that “Republicans hate Hispanics more than they hate ISIS.”

What a rotten position in which Congressional leaders have steered the Republican Party.

The lesson here should be obvious. If GOP leaders do not engrave it in their brains at once, they should resign and welcome competent replacements who will do so: Do not tie defunding measures to the budgets of popular agencies that do important work that the American people support. Instead, attach such provisions to programs that the Left loves, but about which most Americans are much less enthusiastic.

Imagine if Republicans had provided funding through the end of this quarter for the entire federal budget except for the IRS, and then stapled amnesty-defunding language to a separate IRS appropriation. The debate now would be whether or not to shut down the IRS until Obama agrees to abandon his amnesty decree.

If not the IRS, why not the National Labor Relations Board, the National Endowment for the Arts, or the Department of Education’s Common Core office?

If Congress passed and Obama signed the GOP’s appropriation for one of those agencies, his unconstitutional amnesty decree would become an unfunded mandate, while the office financed by the bill would stay open. If Democrats blocked such a measure, or Obama vetoed it, then Democrats would have padlocked the EPA, IRS, NLRB, NEA, or some other unloved or even loathed agency.

The United States can live, and indeed thrive, without new water-heater “standards” or Uncle Sam’s latest exhibit of naughty paintings. The American people won’t miss those things and likely would cheer if the IRS, in particular, were shuttered for weeks. The GOP should have hitched their important, principled constitutionalist stand to something that Obama wants and the American people don’t.

Congressional Republicans desperately need to start thinking this way, and their leaders need to perform their duties with intelligence, creativity, vision, and common sense. If they cannot develop smarter strategies and tactics themselves, then they need to heed conservatives and free marketers outside Congress who have much better ideas for governing than those reflected in the sorry spectacle unfolding today on Capitol Hill.

Deroy Murdock — Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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